NHL Rumor Mill – May 28, 2019
Latest on Phil Kessel, Jason Zucker, and Erik Karlsson plus an update on the Vegas Golden Knights in today’s NHL rumor mill.
KESSEL DIDN’T CONSIDER WILD A CONTENDER
THE SCORE: Josh Wegman cites The Athletic’s Michael Russo reporting Phil Kessel nixed a trade to the Minnesota Wild last week. Sources close to Kessel told Russo the Pittsburgh Penguins winger didn’t believe the Wild is close to contending for the Stanley Cup. He also expressed concern over potential linemates and wasn’t swayed by a call from Wild general manager Paul Fenton.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So much for the theory that, with two Cup rings on his resume, Kessel had lost his competitive edge. If playing for a contender is that important to him, it could douse rumors linking him to the Arizona Coyotes.
ZUCKER ON THE TRADE BLOCK
Russo also noted Jason Zucker was part of the Wild’s offer for Kessel. It’s the second time since February they’ve attempted to trade the 27-year-old winger. An effort to ship him to the Calgary Flames fell through at the trade deadline.
Russo claims the Penguins and Flames remain interested in Zucker. Sources claim the Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes, and Anaheim Ducks also made inquiries.
The Wild “inquired about Christian Dvorak and Christian Fischer in Arizona, Sam Bennett and Michael Frolik in Calgary, and Jonathan Marchessault with the Vegas Golden Knights, according to Russo.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Overlooked in all the hoopla over the Wild’s interest in Kessel is their intent to move Zucker this summer. I’ll be surprised if he’s still on their roster when training camp opens in September. GM Fenton appears keen to move the winger and he wants either an established scorer or a winger with offensive potential in return.
Fenton also inquired about Brock Boeser but the Canucks weren’t interested. Still, I don’t blame Fenton for asking.
COULD THE LIGHTNING PURSUE KARLSSON?
TSN: cited The Athletic’s Joe Smith musing over how the Tampa Bay Lightning might afford Erik Karlsson via free agency on July 1. If Karlsson seeks an annual average value of $11 million he won’t get it from the Bolts. However, if the 28-year-old Sharks defenseman is willing to accept between $8-$9 million per season, there’s a chance the Lightning could pursue him.
Smith acknowledged the Lightning have limited salary-cap space and center Brayden Point is due for a big raise this summer. However, they could free up over $11 million by trading Ryan Callahan and J.T. Miller. It would still be a tight fit but doable.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Lightning has over $74.4 million invested in 17 players. Assuming an $83 million cap for 2019-20, they’ll have about $8.5 million in cap room. Moving Callahan and Miller would increase it to around $20 million.
If Karlsson accepts less than market value and Point accepts a bridge deal with the promise of a bigger payday down the road, it would be possible to pull this off. Making it happen, however, could be easier said than done.
LATEST ON THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS.
LAS VEGAS SUN: Justin Emerson examines how the Vegas Golden Knights can free up sufficient salary-cap space to re-sign restricted free agent William Karlsson and become cap compliant for 2019-20. He suggests trading Cody Eakin, Ryan Reaves, and Colin Miller for futures without taking any salary back. Also, they could decline to re-sign pending UFAs Deryk Engelland, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Carpenter, and Brandon Pirri.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights must shed salary if they hope to re-sign Karlsson and find room for younger, affordable talent. How many players get moved will depend upon how much it costs to re-sign Karlsson. Expect new GM Kelly McCrimmon and team president George McPhee to be busy in the trade market next month.